Transport in the United Kingdom may be about to experience quite a reversal relative to the ideas of the last few decades. In the 1960s we closed one third of our railways and the car became king of cross-country transportation. Now, we are beginning to regret that decision, with the roads and motorways clogged with one car for every two people in the country and associated localised and global pollution concerns. Already some of these old lines have been reopened on the rails, but any regular traveller on train services will testify to their relative expense and continued overcrowding. Allowing our public transportation services to lie such a long way from perfection may be a big mistake, given that, according to our colleagues in the Ecology section, a great deal more needs to be done to reduce emissions from the transport sector, and trains and buses have the potential to achieve this aim in a way that private transportation and air travel does not.
There are a number of new technologies on the table at the moment, aimed at rescuing the car and the plane from the mire of carbon concerns. Car companies across the globe are hurriedly releasing
Predictions about the future world are notoriously inaccurate, and we should steer clear of making too detailed claims about the future planet. However, it is clear that certain moves need to be made – away from high-pollution plane and car travel and continual replacement of electronic devices, for example – if we are to successfully transfer to a world not dependent on fossil fuels. Recent studies indicate that powering the entire globe on renewables simply isn’t feasible, and would have similar effects to the thoughtless expansion of fossil fuel-use over the past century: we are simply using too much energy, and no amount of increased efficiency, as the likes of electric car promises, will solve the issue as more and more of the world becomes “developed”.
A new, more thoughtful, method of progress must be found, looking to the past as much as to new science, to see how generations before us have managed to live without the high-pollution, high-energy pursuits that we currently engage in as a society. The three aspects dealt with here are, of course, interlinked: problems with food supplies will be difficult to alleviate if certain types of biofuel are adopted on a large scale, for example, to fuel our transport, a fact overlooked by policy makers for several years. We must begin to take into account all such relationships and potential drawbacks. Real change for the long-term good is needed, which is what makes today’s latest technologies, beginning to blend the long-tested methods of the past with modern innovation, are so exiting. Without such a refreshed outlook, we may be set for a very grim future indeed.